Strangler Redux

Strangler Redux

There was another reason that my mom and my gramma were upset after the woman was strangled down the street on September 8, 1963.
A few days before the murder, my gramma, who had the room at the front of our apartment, answered someone knocking at the front door.  She opened it and was greeted by a man dressed in work clothes and claiming to be there to inspect the furnace. My mother joined gramma at the door to see what was going on. But the man departed soon after.
My mom tells me now that after the murder they had the suspicion that the “furnaceman” was actually the Boston Strangler.
This is all that my mother remembers today, but I remember something in addition. I didn’t learn about this until after we had moved to Brockton Massachusetts a few years later.
I distinctly remember her getting a visit from a policeman. Albert DeSolvo had confessed to being the Boston Strangler and was then serving his sentence in a prison near by.  This officer was following up on the details of his confession.  DeSolvo had described coming to our apartment on Lafayette Street in Salem. Described the welcome mat outside our door, and gave a description of my gramma who answered his knock. He was at the point of entering when he changed his mind because he heard children playing somewhere within the apartment.
I remember feeling grateful. Grateful that my gramma was not a victim of the Strangler. And awed that my brother, my sister and myself had some part in it.
Still, I sensed at a deeper level there was Someone else to whom thanks was due.

Louie Louie, the Kraut and the Strangler

or Murder on Lafayette Street

Louie Louie the Kraut and the Strangler

It was the dawn of rock’n’roll into my consciousness. The West Coast had Wolfman Jack, but here in the East it was Juicy Brucie blasting out “Louie Louie” on the airwaves of WBZ Boston. The whispers of its rumored nastiness swirled around me. But the terms bandied about by my classmates had no reference in my understanding, and though mildly curious, it’s taboo nature held me back from further inquiry.


It was also the time of my new German nemesis (see my 6/6/13 post for the first).


Klaus is a bit of a mystery in my memory. I don’t remember him being in any of my classes at Saltonstall.  Perhaps he was older.  The other kids, unkindly, called him the kraut, or rather cruelly, the Nazi.  His father had served in the German army during WW2.


What I knew for sure was, he had it in for me. It wasn’t apparent at first. Somehow he knew of my propensity for “adventure.” He told me once he would show me a short cut. Before I knew it I found myself in someone’s private backyard and being confronted by its angry owner. The irate proprietor was at a distance from us on his back porch. Klaus ran to one of the corners and pulled down a trellis, despite the yelling man and together we ducked out.


I was slow on the uptake but finally figured out that he was trying to get me into trouble. And I didn’t know why. Until…


Some time later, Klaus cornered me between our apartment building and the next in a narrow gap that let out onto Lafayette Street. He neither punched nor hit me, he just exuded belligerence. He placed a hand on each of my shoulders, and if I made a move of any kind, he counter moved to pin me. Then he told me I was not to have anything to do with a certain girl. I knew the name. She was in my class and quite possibly the cutest. But I don’t think I’d even said two words to her. I was scared of girls and painfully shy.  I’ll admit to a little boy crush for Shirley Temple that was followed by the then current one for Hayley Mills (and soon to be superseded by one for Julie Andrews). I thought myself too young for any such involvement. This I told Klaus. I didn’t see him around after that. I guess whatever fear he was dealing with was assuaged.


Across Lafayette and down the block, another scene of violence unfolded, severer by far than my little drama. I had seen an ambulance double parked out front, and learned with the rest of the neighborhood that an older woman had been found strangled in her apartment.  Her name was Evelyn Corbin and because of the circumstances of her murder, she was added to the list of victims of the Boston Strangler – number 11.


My mother and grandmother were understandably upset.